Christine Marie Lundy, 38, and her 7-year-old daughter Amber Grace Lundy were murdered in Palmerston North, New Zealand, on 29 August 2000. Mark Edward Lundy (then aged 43), Christine's husband and Amber's father, was arrested and charged with the murders in February 2001. In 2002 he was convicted of the murders after a six-week trial and was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years. He appealed the conviction to the Court of Appeal; the appeal was rejected and the court increased his non-parole period to 20 years. In June 2013 Lundy took his case to the Privy Council in Britain. In October 2013 the Privy Council quashed the convictions and ordered a re-trial. In April 2015, at the end of the retrial, Lundy was again found guilty. Lundy continued to claim he is innocent and in 2017 took his case to the Court of Appeal a second time. On 9 October 2018 the Court of Appeal released its decision to dismiss the appeal.
Mark and Christine Lundy had been married for 18 years; Amber was their only child. They jointly owned a kitchen sink business. In 1999, Mark Lundy bought a vineyard in Hawke's Bay on which he still owed more than NZ$2 million in 2000.
Events on the day of the murders
The murders occurred sometime during the night of Tuesday 29 August 2000. On that Tuesday morning, Lundy drove to Wellington on one of his regular business trips. He checked into a motel in Petone at around 5:00 pm. His wife or daughter called him on his cell phone in Petone; Lundy said he was told during the call that they were going to McDonald's for dinner; the call ended at 5:43 pm. His cell phone records also showed he made a call from Petone to a business partner of his Hawke's Bay wine-making venture at 8.28 pm. At 11:30 pm he called an escort service in Petone.
Police found a McDonald's receipt in the Lundy home for food bought at 5.45pm on 29 August. Christine Lundy took a call at home from a friend just before 7 pm that night. At 7:20 pm a witness described seeing a "suspicious looking jogger" nearby. The computer at the Lundy home was switched off at 10:52 pm.
At Lundy's retrial in 2015, Christine's brother testified that he went to the Lundy home the next morning to see Christine about a business matter. He said he entered through an open ranchslider and found the bodies of Christine and Amber bludgeoned to death. Christine's body was on her bed; Amber's was on the floor in the doorway of Christine's bedroom. Both had died of head injuries caused by multiple blows from what was determined to be a tomahawk-like weapon or small axe. No weapon was found. A rear window had been tampered with and had Christine's blood on it. A jewellery box was later determined to be missing.
Four days before the murders, the Lundys increased their life insurance on the advice of their insurance broker. Christine's cover was raised from $200,000 to $500,000. The prosecution contended that Lundy killed his wife for her life insurance money because of financial pressure, and killed his daughter because she was a witness. However, the policy documents had not been issued so the increase was not valid at the time of Christine’s death.
The prosecution's case was also based on a speck of body tissue found on one of Lundy's polo shirts; the shirt was found along with other clothes and miscellaneous items on the back seat of his car. Although New Zealand pathologists could not identify it as Christine's brain tissue, a pathologist from Texas did. The prosecution argued the only way this brain tissue could have got on the shirt was if Lundy himself was the murderer. Later reports and tests by other experts cast doubt upon the identification of the material as brain tissue.
No weapon was ever found, but paint found in the hair of victims matched the paint Lundy used to mark the tools in his toolshed.
The prosecution called more than 130 Crown witnesses.
The defence called three witnesses including Lundy himself, who emphatically denied killing his wife and daughter. A key defence argument was that Lundy could not possibly have made the round trip from Wellington to Palmerston North and back in three hours, pointing out that Lundy's phone records prove that his phone was in Petone at 5:43 pm and at 8:48 pm. Regarding the brain tissue evidence, the defence noted that there was blood and tissue splattered everywhere including on the walls, the bed and the floor around the bodies but "his car, glasses, wedding ring, shoes and other clothes were all tested for blood or other tissue and absolutely nothing was found"; they said contamination could account for the tissue found on Lundy's shirt.
The jury deliberated for seven hours before finding Lundy guilty of the murder of his wife and child. He was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years.
Lundy's brother Craig, who gave evidence at the trial, publicly stated that he believed Lundy was guilty, while his sister and brother-in-law claimed his innocence.
Court of Appeal
In November 2012, Lundy applied to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council seeking permission to appeal his murder convictions. The appeal was based on three issues: the time of death, the time of shutdown of Christine's computer, and the presence of brain tissue on Lundy's shirt. The hearing before the Privy Council (including Chief Justice of New Zealand Dame Sian Elias) began on 17 June 2013, with possible decisions being to reject the appeal, thus affirming Lundy's convictions and sentence; to overturn the convictions and order a new trial; or to send the case back to the Court of Appeal in New Zealand for determination. The Privy Council reserved its decision after the three day hearing. On 4 October 2013, the Privy Council upheld Lundy's appeal against his double murder convictions and quashed them, ordering a retrial. It concluded that Lundy's convictions were "unsafe" in light of new evidence that had been presented. Mark Lundy was released from prison under probation orders on 5 October 2013 pending a second trial.
In 2015 Lundy was tried a second time. The Crown case was led by Philip Morgan QC. The defence was led by David Hislop QC. The Crown made significant changes to the prosecution case against Lundy following the ruling of the Privy Council. They no longer claimed that Lundy made a 300km round trip from Petone to Palmerston North in less than three hours to commit the murders. Instead, they argued Lundy drove up to Palmerston North in the middle of the night after he had been with the prostitute.
The jury also heard about scientific tests which were conducted on tissue found on one of Lundy's shirts. The Crown claimed the stains were brain or spinal cord matter from Christine while the defence argued they could have been stains from a meat pie. The tests were developed by Dr Laetitia, from a laboratory in the Netherlands, specifically for the Lundy case; they had never been used before and have never been used since. The prosecution claimed the tests proved the tissue was human.
The jury deliberated for over sixteen hours after which, on 1 April, Lundy was again found guilty.
In October 2017, Lundy appealed his second conviction at the Court of Appeal in Wellington. Lundy was represented in the Court of Appeal by Jonathan Eaton QC, Julie-Anne Kincade, Jack Oliver-Hood and Helen Coutts. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal in October 2018. It ruled that the Crown evidence about RNA (the alleged presence of brain tissue on Lundy's shirt and similar to DNA) in the retrial was inadmissible but decided the appeal should be dismissed "on the basis that no substantial miscarriage of justice has actually occurred."
Lundy was found guilty in the second trial after the results of two different tests, immunohistochemistry [IHC] and mRNA, conducted on tissue found on one of his shirts were presented to the jury. The Court of Appeal subsequently ruled this evidence was novel science that had never been used before, or since, and should not have been presented to the jury – but upheld Lundy's convictions anyway. This was the 'proviso', the mechanism that allowed the Court of Appeal to dismiss Lundy's appeal. Lundy's lawyer, Jonathan Eaton QC, then argued to the Supreme Court that Lundy had become the victim of 'junk science' and in May 2019, he was granted leave to have his appeal heard by the Supreme Court - solely on the proviso argument.
On 20 December 2019, the Supreme Court of New Zealand dismissed Lundy's appeal, stating in its concluding paragraph that "The other evidence establishes beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Lundy murdered Christine and Amber Lundy."
Other theories of the murders
Geoff Levick, who runs a campaign to have Lundy's convictions overturned, believed Lundy was innocent largely based on the time needed to travel from Petone to Lundy's house and return. He speculated that a creditor of Lundy paid someone to go to Lundy's house to "teach him a lesson", but Lundy was not there and matters "got out of hand".
In 2009, North & South magazine published the results of an investigation into the case by Mike White titled The Lundy murders: what the jury didn't hear. Lundy would have had only three hours to make the return journey from Petone to Palmerston North, a round trip of approximately 290 km (180 mi), kill his wife and daughter, change his clothes and dispose of evidence; White contended that was not possible in such a short time frame. In order to make it back to Petone by 8.28 pm, Lundy would have had to drive to Palmerston North in rush hour traffic at an average speed of around 117 km/h (73 mph; the maximum open road speed limit in New Zealand at the time was 100 km/h, 62 mph), commit the crimes, and make the return journey back to Petone at an average speed of 120 km/h (75 mph).
In 2012, documentary film maker, Bryan Bruce made an episode examining the Lundy case as part of his series The Investigator. Like others, Bruce believed that Lundy could not possibly have made the return trip in three hours, but he thought Lundy could have made the trip and committed the crimes later that night, returning to Petone in the early hours of the morning.
In July 2009, Salient editor Jackson Wood courted controversy by announcing the "Lundy 500", an event whereby teams of vehicles would "travel from Petone to Palmerston North as convicted double murderer Mark Lundy did in 2000, before murdering wife Christine and daughter Amber, according to the prosecution at his 2002 trial." Participants were tasked with doing the trip in 68 minutes or less, the same time Lundy is argued to have driven the distance. Wood argued that the "event was designed to draw attention to some of the inconsistencies in the New Zealand legal system", and emphasised that he wasn't encouraging anyone to break the law. However, the proposed event was harshly criticised in the media, and on 2 August it was announced that the event was to be cancelled. Wood apologised to the Lundy family and wrote that: "He acknowledged that their viewpoints were not adequately taken into account before the event was announced on Friday, and that there were other ways for this point to be communicated".
A similar re-enactment of the travel involved in the Lundy case, dubbed the "Lundy Three Hundy" was proposed in 2013 by Nic Miller. It was likewise criticised in the media, with Mathew Grocott writing that "this event should not go ahead and if those involved have any human decency then it won't go ahead."
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